A Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework
In Northamptonshire we recognised that our Local Transport Plan (LTP) modal shift strategies required greater reference and encouragement to use a motorcycle as an alternative to single occupancy car journeys. The county is expanding at a huge rate which is creating significant pressures on the current road network. We therefore know that greater use of motorcycles can bring environmental, congestion and accessibility benefits particularly on journeys made for commuting to places of employment or education. Riders save considerable time on end to end journeys and take up less space to park. Smaller motorcycles and scooters are more fuel efficient, making travel more affordable, which also means lower CO2 emissions. In addition, and whilst accepting that motorcyclists are a vulnerable road user group, we were encouraged that rider casualties have fallen in the county by nearly 30% over the past 20 years all against an exponential rise in sales.
We were also greatly influenced by the first draft of the Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework document, ‘Realising the Motorcycling Opportunity’. The document entirely captured the advantages of encouraging a culture of motorcycle use whilst ensuring that safety and training components are remodelled to improve confidence, skills and techniques. It also provided powerful and compelling evidence for including motorcycles in core transport strategies as a mainstream and viable alternative to car use.
At around the same time we felt that the best method of determining our own motorcycle strategy was to commission a public survey to help us better understand local motorcycle use and travel habits as well as attitudes to local roads policy, personal safety and training. The survey concluded in May 2015 and over 600 local people responded of which, not surprisingly, 78% already held a motorcycle licence. The results served to reinforce many of the perceived barriers to commuting in the county ie inadequate changing/parking facilities at places of employment, inclement weather, road surface conditions and ‘other’ road users. Use of bus lanes and advanced ‘STOP’ lines were amongst the most popular positive suggestions and there was overwhelming support for affordable post-test training schemes. Of the non-licence holders, poor facilities at places of employment were by far the greatest barrier to taking up motorcycling for commuting purposes.
The survey attracted national interest and provided us with some valuable supporting evidence to help determine effective strategies and measures to encourage increased use of motorcycles as a sustainable form of transport. With little knowledge or expertise in terms of this form of transport we were pleased to be contacted by the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) offering areas of collaboration, support and mentoring from their team of experts. We were hugely impressed and exited at their willingness to engage with a local highway authority and we quickly established a partnership branded as Motorcycle Northants.
In little over 12 months the MCIA have helped us to firmly establish and deliver a range of initiatives and interventions in the county in line with our LTP road safety and sustainable travel strategies. These form part of our Phase One Toolkit of measures which include:
- MCIAC accreditation for Approved Training Bodies in the county
- Numerous free ‘Get On’ taster sessions for non-riders
- Hosting Ride to Work Week in the county
- Marketing and promotion guidance
- Engaging with local and national media to promote Motorcycle Northants
- Hosting the National BikeSafe event at the Northamptonshire Rockingham circuit – Sponsored by Northamptonshire Highways
- Supporting our funding bid to introduce a Wheels to Work scheme in Northamptonshire
- Promoting Motorcycle Northants through presentations at national conferences
Phase Two has already commenced and includes:
- Legalising the use of motorcycles in Northamptonshire bus lanes
- Implementing a programme of secure motorcycle parking facilities around major Northamptonshire towns
- Implementing ‘motorcycle friendly’ interventions as part of our road maintenance regime
- All new planning approvals and travel plans to include motorcycle promotion
- Undertake studies on Motorcycle Red Routes (most collision affected routes) and implement improvements
- Establishing a motorcycle dealership forum to influence and inform policy
- Confirmation that the annual national BikeSafe event will remain at Rockingham circuit
- Reviewing the Northamptonshire Local Transport Plan to integrate motorcycling into mainstream sustainable transport and safety policy
In terms of a motorcycle strategy within the Northamptonshire Local Transport Plan everything we aspire to is contained within the Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework document. It underpins our Motorcycle Northants project and has helped to raise the profile and advantages of motorcycling in the county. Together with the MCIA we have committed significant resources to the project which we hope will form the template for encouraging other local highways authorities to embrace and promote motorcycling within their core transport strategies.
Our vision in Northamptonshire is simple, and succinctly captured in the framework document, ‘by implementing the actions in this framework, we will produce more motorcyclists, better motorcyclists and crucially, better road users all round’